Roads - From one end of the District to the other there is dissatisfaction with the condition of roads, and I can tell you that we cannot take pride in the condition of those in the State Capitol, either. In Jamaica it is Route 30 (shared with Winhall and probably Stratton, as well) and in Weston it is Route 155. I have followed up with the Agency of Transportation and the only thing I have learned is that Route 30 is scheduled well before Route 155, and neither is scheduled anywhere near soon enough. Route 30 is scheduled for 2015. Route 155 is not yet scheduled for repaving at all. I am going to see of pursuing this further with more legislators on board can make a difference. In the meantime we can look forward to some improvement when the frost once again takes it leave and the frost heaves depart.
New Driver's License Identification Requirements - Do not blame the State of Vermont. This comes from Federal Homeland Security. Healthcare - There are two concerns. One is current access and coverage.
The second concern remains an unknown. Some may have read or heard the news that Representative Cynthia Browning, (D), Arlington has submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Administration's healthcare financing expert, asking to see work completed to date on tax options to pay for Green Mountain Care, Vermont's planned universal health care program. It will be interesting to see what response Rep. Browning receives. I have requested that the financing expert respond to whether pensions might get an additional tax, and received no response.
For a currently constructive action taken on the healthcare front, see H.123 under current bills passed of interest, below. Note that these bills have passed the House, but not the Senate, yet.
Education - The House Education Committee continues to work on a Committee Bill dealing with the future of education governance in Vermont. The committee has held hearings in St. Johnsbury and Rutland, and the House Chamber of the Statehouse. The last, was just yesterday. I know that the hearings have made an impression on my friends on the Education Committee, and that Independent schools were well represented in St. Johnsbury and Rutland, with less, but strong, testimony in their favor Montpelier. There seems to be agreement that there are too many Supervisory Unions, and perhaps too many Districts.
My previous column addressed the threat to school choice that redistricting poses to districts that now have school choice under 16 V. S. A. 7821 and 7822, because they do not have an operating school, if they are consolidated with a district that has an operating school. At this writing, the bill includes a provision that seems to grandfather previous relationships between pre-existing non-operating districts and "one of the four approved independent schools that has historically served as the public school for the community in which it is located " That is much narrower than my bill H. 816. It is too narrow, but it recognizes the situation. The objective will be to get it broadened as it takes its long trip to fruition! The window of structure change goes to July 1, 2019 in the Committee Bill.
We'll see where it ends up.
On the current front, isn't it interesting that in the wake of at least 34 school budget failures the Governor is stating he will lower the increase in the statewide property tax rate from 7 cents to something lower? Now we just need to watch carefully how the Ways and Means Com mittee tries to accomplish that!
Current Bills of Interest Passed the House - H. 123, An Act Relating to Lyme Disease and other tick-borne illnesses, passed the House with an overwhelming affirmative voice vote. I think it was unanimous. The bill proposes to allow a licensed physician to prescribe, administer, or dispense long-term antibiotic therapy for the purpose of eliminating or controlling a patient's Lyme disease or other tick-borne illness. If the bill makes it through the Senate and is signed by the Governor, which seems likely, that will be a win for Vermont's victims of Lyme disease.
H. 501, An act relating to operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs proposes to amend the current Act covering driving "under the influence of intoxicating liquor" so that the same interpretation, "that a person's full mental or physical abilities are diminished, impaired, or affected in the slightest degree by intoxicating liquor," also applies to driving "under the influence of any other drug or under the combined influence of alcohol and any other drug." It is my privilege to represent you in Montpelier, and I appreciate your support.
Charles "Tim" Goodwin represents the towns of Weston, Jamaica, Winhall, Londonderry and Stratton in the state Legislature.